FIA emergency #F1 safety measures: A blatant joke

The FIA are moving to hurriedly implement regulations already agreed to improve pit lane safety. The rules were due to be implemented in 2014, however the sport’s governing body will ask the World Motor Sport Council’s approval to implement these at the next race.

Following a pit lane incident at last weekend’s German Grand Prix, the FIA has decided to take steps to increase F1 safety and is to institute an immediate ban on anyone other than event marshals and team personnel being present in pit lane during races and grand prix qualifying sessions. Access for approved media will be confined to the pit wall.

Last weekend’s incident at the Nürburgring occurred when, following a pit stop, a wheel became detached from the Red Bull Racing car of Mark Webber as he made his way towards the pit lane exit. The loose wheel struck a television cameraman who was hospitalised as a result. He is expected to make a full recovery.

In order to reduce the risk of similar accidents in the future, the FIA, on the initiative of its President, Jean Todt, will be seeking to make changes to the Formula One Sporting Regulations. In order to effect this, the FIA today informed teams that the approval of the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) will immediately be sought for two changes to the Sporting Regulations. Both of these changes have already been approved for 2014. However, for safety reasons, the WMSC will be asked to approve their immediate implementation. The changes are:

1) Article 23.11*, which will now require all team personnel working on a car during a pit stop to wear head protection.

2) Article 30.12**, which will provide for a reduction of the pit lane speed limit during races from 100km/h to 80km/h (with the exception of Melbourne, Monaco and Singapore, where due to track configuration the limit remains at 60km/h).

Finally, in relation to the incident at the German Grand Prix, the FIA is expecting a written report from Red Bull Racing tomorrow. This will also be shared with the other teams in order to help improve pit lane safety.

* 23.11 Team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete. All team personnel carrying out any work on a car during a race pit stop must be wearing head protection.

** 30.12 A speed limit of 80km/h will be imposed in the pit lane during the whole Event. However, this limit may be amended by the stewards following a recommendation from the FIA F1 safety delegate. Any team whose driver exceeds the limit during any practice session will be fined €100 for each km/h above the limit, up to a maximum of €1000. However, in accordance with Article 18.1 the stewards may inflict an additional penalty if they suspect a driver was speeding in order to gain any sort of advantage. During the race the stewards may impose either of the penalties under Article 16.3a) or b) on any driver who exceeds the limit.

Melbourne, Monaco and Singapore already have lower pit lane speed limits and are unaffeted. Further, a report from Red Bull into what occurred is expected in Paris tomorrow.

TJ13 notes the credit is rather crudely and overtly given to Le Presidente, “on the initiative of its President, Jean Todt”. Similar rhetoric was in evidence in the FIA statement following Silverstone.

Is it strange that a man who has been silent through the collapse of RRA, the failure to agree a Concorde agreement, no comment for months over tyre matters – including who will be the supplier in 2014 – is suddenly being thrust to the fore in the surprising 2 dictats issued by the FIA?

The absurdity of this intervention is that at worst it is irrelevant and at best fiddling whilst Rome burns. Helmet’s and re-positioning the photographers does not solve the problem. We have seen errant tyres on the loose bounce 50-60 feet in the air and bounce unpredictability wherever the tyre wills.

So the logical result of this announcement is that we should see pit wall personnel like Horner, Newey and Brawn wearing helmets, or should we remove them to the safety of trucks in the paddock?

Further, the speed of the car in the pit lane is irrelevant to the torque and wheel spin pulled by an F1 car launching out of its box. Whatever the pit lane speed limit, a loose wheel can be launched at well above this speed if not secured properly.

Further, the reduction in the pit lane speed does not proportionately reduce the risk of a serious or fatal accident. Everyone working in that area is not now 20% safer. Road safety campaigns have demonstrated that the reduction from 30-20pmh (50-33kph) delivered huge improvements in the fatality ratio, not seen in a similar reduction from 45-30mph.

This just smacks of a knee jerk reaction when what in fact is required are calm minds and a touch of analysis together with a basic understanding of the issues. Only then will there be a sensible outcome.

The problem is in fact cars being released without wheels being properly secured. The teams have added levels of technology into the process which now decides when a car is ready to be released. Red Bull’s system relies on sensors all being activated for the lollypop man to allow the release.

Clearly it failed. Rampaging wheels on the loose have been an infrequent but regular sight in F1 over the years, so is it merely the case that whatever is done, this event will occasionally occur?

A number of experienced voices are calling for a reduced number of bodies servicing the car because this will allow the lollypop man the opportunity to judge better in what is now a very crowded space, and whether all is well and ready to go. Inherent in this idea is to return of the decision making of when a car is safe for release to the man at the front who can see when this is the case.

The assumption that because there are fewer people involved, mistakes are less likely is a moot point. The pressure to deliver the fastest stop time remains whatever the number of personnel are working on the car and hence the extra time will not necessarily be qualitative in ensuring the task is properly and safely completed.

Teams do tinker with the equipment they use to change a wheel and at times the new kit will be unfamiliar to the crew and be liable to misuse. Standardising the wheel rims, nuts and wheel guns would remove this variable, yet this does not resolve the pressure to deliver fast changeovers as mentioned above.

The only solution which would make any sense, is to make the pit stop a mandatory minimum time, similar to a stop and go. This provides for ample time for the job to be done fully and within safety limits and maybe the drivers can have time for a quick smoke if they desire.

Even this solution does not account for a gun failure or some other eventuality which will place someone under a similar time pressure to which they face now, which in turn may result in a tyre failing to be secured properly.

Alternatively, here’s an idea. We accept motor racing is a dangerous sport and that accidents will happen.

What is clear is that jumping on the safety band wagon and the solution proffered by Jean Todt is precipitous and absurd. To anyone with half a brain, this is simply Le Presidente posturing and playing for votes.

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52 responses to “FIA emergency #F1 safety measures: A blatant joke

  1. “Otherwise we accept motor racing is a dangerous sport and that accidents will happen.” — I agree 100% that motoracing is inherently dangerous, and if drivers want to hang it all out on the ragged edge and court death, that’s fine. I don’t care if they kill themselves and I won’t spare tears for their families.

    But nonaligned media that are just there to record the events on video aren’t knowingly participating in a life-or-death event and they shouldn’t be subjected to any greater risk of mortality than a cameraman at the Tour de France.

    • I can assure you the cameramen at pit-lane level are (or should be) fully aware of the dangers – if they are not they should not be allowed into such areas. I have seen them described as ‘FOM’ cameramen and so would like to assume they cover all, or most, of the races and that FOM doesn’t just pick up guys in each country. If this latter is the case I would suggest Todt, in his much belated search for safety (as opposed to Road Safety that is…) prevents the issue of pit-passes to, in effect, whichever guys turn up each day.
      This silly panic about helmets makes me laugh – did Todt not notice that the guy suffered shoulder and rib injuries… Sure, it could have been worse but how much nannying does society really desire/need…? It has also been explained that cameramen cannot wear helmets because of their need to see into a viewfinder. I would add that although it can sometimes be possible to fit an external monitor to digi-cams these can be virtually impossible to view in some light conditions.
      The real problem as I see it is that most pit-lane workers will often have their back to the action/accident, and there is no solution to this, and even for those who are facing the accident will have no real knowledge which way to jump – rogue tyres, spinning cars, spilt fuel (even parked cars without handbrakes – and why weren’t the front wheels turned into the wall…!?), all have their own ways of behaving.
      Finally, I see no reason why even pit-crews need to have protective clothing/helmets which is left over from re-fuelling days – it should be their own choice but as you seem happy to mourn their families I will take over the sympathy roll for the drivers’ families, about whom you have clearly expressed your own unattractive opinion.
      —————–
      Sorry for the repeat – had a power failure as I sent the first time.

      • Completely agree re Todt, definitely taking advantage for political reasons, which I wouldn’t mind so much if only he had more sensible ideas.

        I must disagree with the helmets, though, because it’s not just the occasional flying tire to be considered. how many times have we seen overzealous driver’s run down their own pit crew in the last few years (Kamui, I’m looking at you). With the amount of speed carried by the cars, even in the pit lane, the possibility of a life changing head injury simply from being knocked to the ground does exist, and IMO worth preventing.

        I used to race bicycles, and had a friend who suffered a concussion from a fall, it took him over 2 years to fully recover, and talking to him for the 1st six months or so was a positively scary thing. And he was wearing a helmet.

        • I don’t have a problem with helmets for pit lane workers, TV crew etc but what about the shirkers sat on the pit wall? They are just as likely to take a hit.

          • Honestly, if they are being serious about it then yes, but more likely they should rethink the design of the pit wall proper, to shield those working there from run away objects while still allowing them to do whatever it is they think so important.

            Although there are, I am sure, those who would argue based on some of the strategies we have seen that the random removal of team engineers/principals and other purveyors of mayhem might improve a teams performance.

            In fact, there’s an idea worthy of Mr E., equip a maniac with a cricket bat and let him loose at a critical juncture in the race on the pit wall. Bound to be entertaining and in the right circumstances highly satisfying to disappointed fans. 🙂

      • you make a lot of assumptions responding to my post, and are only really on solid ground in characterizing my sentiments on sparing grief for dead racers’ families as ugly.

        But my point is one I stand by: that the self-selected risk of bodily harm managed by drivers should not have to be faced by media to cover the event. If one is to be injured, we expect it to be a competitor, hurt by failure associated at least in some way w/ his own risk-taking and decision-making. When it happens independent of that (like in the case of the poor Marussia test driver who lost her eye through someone else’s negligence), or involves a third-party (like a spectator, or in this case, the injured cameraman) then we should rightly reevaluate current safety measures and standard procedures.

        Reactionary proclamations of change made by Todt that don’t/won’t/can’t actually make a difference…well that I don’t support. Rather, I think RBR should face massive sporting and civil liability to serve as a deterrent towards other teams risking the lives of all GP attendees by rushing pit stops to such a degree that a car leaves the box w/o a wheel properly attached!

        • Hi Joe – I’m not sure what assumptions I made but thanks for explaining your views more clearly… We don’t now seem to be so disparate in our opinions.
          I certainly agree nobody should have to work in dangerous situations but I would preserve the individual’s right, for whatever reason, to make his own decisions, and not be forced into being over-regulated by the ‘grey-suits’…

  2. “Whatever the pit lane speed limit, a loose wheel will be launched at well above this speed if it has been failure to be secured.” ?????

    How is more energy put into a wheel after it leaves the car? Not possible. The rotational energy it has when it leaves the car is what it has. It can’t accelerate, as there is no force acting on it, except to slow it down. Fail.

    I suppose you will argue that the wheel is spinning, but there is a maximum speed (the pit limiter) above which it won’t go.

    • He’s talking about the high amount of wheel spin that occurs right when a car is released. The pit limiter is off at this point – don’t you hear how the cars rev? It’s a real launch not a neutered launch.

      This is a prime time for the wheel to fly off and it’s spinning faster than it would be compared to coasting on the pit limiter.

  3. An added comment:

    There was a great fan video on F1Fanatic today (since stopped by FOM for copyright infringement) of the incident. The video is looking down the pit lane toward the track entrance. The first thing we see is Webber’s car, followed by the wheel. Webber was moving faster than the wheel. Scary video, to see the speed of the wheel striking the cameraman. He was lucky. but still, the wheel will not go faster than the car.

    • The way the speed limiter works -as described to me – suggests the rotation of the axle is not restricted by a maximum no. of revolutions which equal a given speed.

      Further, it is laughable to think 80kph is an absolute resolution or significantly and proportionally better for flying wheels.

      • You misunderstand me. No where do I suggest there is a ‘better’ speed for a loose wheel. The video I mentioned was scary; the wheel was really moving and the cameraman was very lucky. I am simply stating that, contrary to the original comment, a wheel, once free of the car, will not accelerate; it already contains all the energy it will ever have.

        • It’s my fault, I changed the comment slightly because it was confusing the issue.

          The original point was meant to state that the wheel could be launched from the car at a speed greater than the speed limit – not that it would accelerate once the initial energy had been transmitted.

          Hence the speed limit reduction is pointless for rampaging wheels making a bid for freedom.

          Though if it was spinning at say 100kph, it would in fact appear to accelerate as it gained traction from its state of spinning.

          I saw that video too before FOM robbed us of it due to technical license matters.

          • Okay, fair enough. Too bad FOM acts as they do, removing videos that can generate fans (and I don’t mean the accident stuff).

  4. If the FIA are really interested in pit safety then they should copy NASCAR and IndyCar. Move everyone behind the pit wall and allow only one gun man per wheel. I still cannot believe they allow team personnel to sit so close to the track during the race!

    • F1 has always been loathe to be seen to follow their “inferior” stateside cousins. Remember the pace car rule being implemented – it was so long past overdue, but they didn’t want to be thought of copying indycar. In the end their petty minds came up with something “new:” a safety car.

  5. In any motorsport event I have attended as a spectator, there was always a large warning sign at the entrance proclaiming something along the lines of “enter at your own risk, the owners take no responsibility for any injury incurred etc” – it has always been this way. To some degree the strides made in driver safety since Imola 94 especially more recently with HANS, tarmac run-off areas, higher instance of safety-car intervention etc has perhaps given the casual observer a false sense of how supposedly safe the sport is.

    From a driver point of view, I think the sport has certainly lost its edge in terms of danger, as the drivers seem now to almost be in the safest position. If you consider that since 94 all deaths in F1 have not been drivers, it would seem that cameramen, and more likely track marshals, are now the ones in the most danger. What improvements have there been to marshal safety in the last 20 years?

  6. Why not have a universal system that senses when all 4 tyres are on, and will then only allow 1st gear to be engaged.
    Then it will not be physically possible for the car to move unless all sensors are engaged.
    I don’t see reducing speed limits as a good idea – we want to see a spectacle – not F1 cars crawling.
    We also want to see up close shots during pit stops – perhaps we may get good footage from the pit wall – but maybe chuck a helmet on the cameraman!

    • Red Bull have a system similar to the one you describe but it failed as things go wrong from time to time.

      The pressure sensors for each corner were all ‘go’, though clearly the wheel was not on the car and the mechanic operating that section knew it.

      • Pretty sure their system is on/off/on, i.e. once the nut is tightened down the signal is given, but the problem was the mechanic backed the nut off again and the system didn’t reflect that, or having seen the light go, the lollipop man didn’t notice it change back (couldn’t find any video from that POV).

        Brian Jee suggested hub strain gauges for wheel nut torque as drive control inputs when pit lane speed limiter is engaged, which would be a more elegant and thorough solution that would have prevented Webber from leaving the box (ignoring the ever present possibility of catastrophic software failure) since the car would be prevented from being in gear until there was enough torque on the nut to keep the tire firmly attached.

  7. I´d say the best way to prevent such incidents is the use of standardized wheel nuts with an automatic information system for proper use.
    If the wheelnut is not secured, this signal is not sent to the ECU and as long as it is unsecure, it should not be possible to release the car.

  8. If it was April 1 I would suggest that work on a car within the pit lane boundary is only permitted by the driver with tools carried on the car!

    • Me again! To be serious, a lower maximum number of pit lane crew makes sense, along with a minimum stand-still time of say 5 seconds between stop and go would allow teams to change wheels quickly and safely, with mandatory manual locking devices, but give time for the all-clear for release from the box.

      • Of course – and a pit stop would be for water to cool the tyres! Just back from a trip around the 1903 Gordon Bennett circuit in the Irish Midlands. A Mercedes won it then on one set of tyres, because the suppliers could not provide the right compound – no, no, I’m getting carried away! But it was won at an average speed of 49 mph, on the same set of tyres which required buckets of water thrown over them at Controls to cool them down! Oh when men were men and women – no, no, getting carried away again!

  9. Slower speed limits and fewer engineers is not the solution. With these tyres, if you make the pit stops longer, people will be cruising around so as to avoid going to the pits 3-4 times per race.

    After Imola 94 they didn’t decide to slow the cars down and put drivers into armours. They improved safety around the track and the cars themselves.
    The same way, you need to improve safety in the pit lane, maybe having media etc behind some near-indestructible glass. Or place cameras around the garage entrance.

    • If there is a minimum pit stop time it will be the same for all, so no advantage in not pitting over that which is currently available.

      • Dear sir I beg to differ. This weekend analysts reckoned the difference in race time was 4 seconds between a 2 stop strategy (fastest) and a 3 stop strategy.

        If the extra time put on a pitstop was say 10 seconds, clearly more conservative strategies involving fewer stops will win the day.

        So we will see more tyre conservation long stints and less flat out racing which requires more changes of rubber

        • Not to get lost in the weeds on this one, but wouldn’t it be true that a long tyre-conservation stint be done at a (slightly) slower speed, to preserve the tyres as intended, and therefore once again narrow the equation between, say, 2 or 3 stops?

          Whether that’s true or not, I think this highlights that this is all a complex issue that needs proper thinking about. What we are seeing here appears to be “knee-jerk” at best (as noted by another poster).

          Lower speeds and fewer people would seem to decrease the chance of injury, but it’s hardly a thought-out strategy or a reflection of F1’s “pinnacle” of motorsport. Similarly, a marshal died earlier this year – if we’re going in for immediate fixes, where was the announcement after that? I would expect better from the FIA…which, in fairness, I suppose we might get following the RB report.

          • I think we’re talking at slightly cross purposes.

            If the time lost racing is say 15 seconds to change come in, tyres, and be up sto speed on track again – teams are more inclined to do an incremental number of stops… than if….

            the time were 1 minute. This would be prohibitive and force the strategists to suggest they eek out the tyres – as we’ve seen this year.

            IMHO

        • Although I totally agree with your theory I wonder why this doesn’t seem to happen in IndyCars, at least at the ovals, where the ‘slow-down’ and ‘speed-up’ sections (before and after the actual pit-lane section) must add considerably to the time lost per stop and yet they all seem to run the same number of stops… I feel there is more to this than immediately meets the eye…

          • Thanks for that SteveH… I do love it when there’s a simple answer… 😉
            Are you saying that the gaps between pit-stops are solely determined by the amount of fuel which can be carried, and the tyres are changed at that time out of convenience…?

        • My point being if a minimum pit stop time was imposed the conditions would be no different than at the moment when all teams have the choice of how many pit stops they make. Those that stop would have the same conditions, those that do not stop would have only about a three second advantage over the non-pitting advantage time at the moment, which would mosty likely be wiped away by being on older tyres.

          • Agreed, but when the choice of 2 stopping over 3 stopping at present is a 4 seconds advantage (which allows for deg etc), it grows to 4+x seconds and makes the extra stop less attractive

    • How about those cameras you see at football matches that are suspended above the pitch on wires and operated remotely. They give pretty good shots.

        • What about little flying insect like robot camera’s too? They could zip up to the driver’s visor and look into his eyes 🙂

          I saw a film with these little guys in once. Can’t remember what it was though…

          • Yes, I could particularly enjoy the view as one of them accidentally gets sucked into an intake manifold and run through the engine. LOL

    • In this day and age, you don’t really need a camera man, mounted cameras with remote controls is entirely sensible, and you can get as close as you like then

  10. Without meaning to sound harsh its a dangerous sport. A cameraman being in that environment knows the dangers. I would gladly swap with them though just to be that close to the action. I am sure a lot of them do it for that reason. Yes things could go wrong and maybe I would end up worse than this camera man (best wishes to him by the way) but they are the chances you take. You could be hit by a bus and killed just crossing the road…..

    • “You could be hit by a bus and killed just crossing the road…..”

      Just because the risk exists DOESN’T mean we DON’T still seek to minimize it…

  11. I can assure you the cameramen at pit-lane level are (or should be) fully aware of the dangers – if they are not they should not be allowed into such areas. I have seen them described as ‘FOM’ cameramen and so would like to assume they cover all, or most, of the races and that FOM doesn’t just pick up guys in each country. If this latter is the case I would suggest Todt, in his much belated search for safety (as opposed to Road Safety that is…) prevents the issue of pit-passes to, in effect, whichever guys turn up each day.
    This silly panic about helmets makes me laugh – did Todt not notice that the guy suffered shoulder and rib injuries… Sure, it could have been worse but how much nannying does society really desire/need…? It has also been explained that cameramen cannot wear helmets because of their need to see into a viewfinder. I would add that although it can sometimes be possible to fit an external monitor to digi-cams these can be virtually impossible to view in some light conditions.
    The real problem as I see it is that most pit-lane workers will often have their back to the action/accident, and there is no solution to this, and even for those who are facing the accident will have no real knowledge which way to jump – rogue tyres, spinning cars, spilt fuel (even parked cars without handbrakes – and why weren’t the front wheels turned into the wall…!?), all have their own ways of behaving.
    Finally, I see no reason why even pit-crews need to have protective clothing/helmets which is left over from re-fuelling days – it should be their own choice but as you seem happy to mourn their families I will take over the sympathy roll for the drivers’ families, about whom you have clearly expressed your own unattractive opinion.

    • Sorry, this got posted twice, during a power failure… Delete this one with pleasure.

  12. Jean Todt is doing this for political reasons only. As you say, he has been quiet and ineffective the rest of the year. Amazing what people will do when they are close to re-election to try to make themselves look good.
    Motorsport is inherently dangerous, it is one of the reasons people like to watch it, because of the risk involved. If you want to take safety to the extreme then decide to make it a Scalextrix championship, or all the racing is done on connected simulators. Problems such as wayward wheels are, thankfully, quite rare. I think this is just an over reaction especially as the cameraman wasn’t seriously hurt and that it is a rare event. I am sure the guy will get adequate compensation, and can dine out on the story for the rest of his life. It was just that it was more in the public eye. I don’t see any new regulations regarding moving of racing cars from the track, even though a marshall died the other day when involved in that activity. I suppose it is possible to have fixed and remote controlled cameras at every pit bay, so we dont miss out on the thrill of the pitstop, but I think it will lose something as compared to how it is shown at present. Motorsport should be exciting, and it will lose viewers if it is turned into something boring.

    • Quite agree.
      It has also just occurred to me that this cameraman injured his shoulder… which is where he spends much of his working day carrying his camera… This could actually affect the rest of his career in this field. I doubt FOM will compensate for that…

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